The Average Person Will Never Care About APIs Until It Does Something Meaningful
30 Nov 2017
I am always looking for ways to introduce people to the concept of APIs, and that they are right below everything digital you do in your daily life. Even with my prolific writing, and sharing on social media, the number of new converts to API awareness are relatively low. I’m alright with what I do not scaling. I’m in this for the long haul, not to sell products or services. I’m looking to help turn on the API light for people not because I want them building the next API, I want to help enlighten folks so that they can take more control over their digital presence, and push back on the platforms and algorithms that are increasingly dominating our lives.
One thing I’ve learned about normal folks in my journey as the API Evangelist is that nobody will ever care about APIs until they do something meaningful in their lives. Technologists learn about APIs for other reasons, but normal people aren’t motivated in the same ways, and need to have some meaning before they’ll wade into this more technical world of unknown, unknowns. When talking to technologists about APIs I focus on the API lifecycle, and the agility that APIs bring. With normal folks I tend to focus on platforms they already use, and algorithms that directly impact their lives, or impact people they know. As an API storyteller it is important for me to develop meaningful stories, that make APIs accessible in everyday scenarios to average people I encounter.
If someone is a photographer I will tell stories of the Flickr or Instagram API. If someone is an accountant, I will work through how the Intuit API is rapidly being used by small businesses. If someone is a genealogist I will talk about how the Family Search API drives Ancestry.com. If someone is a music professional I will focus on Spotify, or maybe the Bandcamp API. This is why I play with as many APIs as I can, so that I’m familiar with them, and can tell meaningful stories around the impact they make (good or bad). I tell these stories, so that I can share them with average people who may not be aware that APIs exist right below the surface of their world. Once I show them in a meaningful way, they’ll almost always continue their journey on their own, poking, scratching, and learning about what APIs can do in their world.
Technologists often take for granted why people understand APIs. They don’t think about the why of it. You either are a technologist and know, or you aren’t in this class of tech wizards and have no business knowing. I do not see the world like that. I’m regularly thinking about how I can produce new converts, and open up the average person’s eyes to what APIs are. I do not believe in a technologist class, and that some people should know this, and others should not. I believe that EVERYONE should be aware of how their data, and other bits and bytes are moving around beneath the websites they use, the mobile applications they depend on, and the devices they are putting into their homes, automobiles, and other aspects of our lives. Even with this belief, I fully understand I will never convert normal folks into being an API aware individual until they do something meaningful in their life.